THE PASSIONATE REPURPOSER
A Connecticut architect reinvents vintage flea-market finds into new furniture with an old soul.
OPPOSITE PAGE: This floor lamp comprises an antique headboard that was cut and covered with textured paper, and a pair of shapely century- old corbels on either side of it. THIS PAGE, TOP LEFT: After a year’s unfruitful search for a round dining table, furniture maker Jim Healy built his own from new copper pipes that he chemically treated for a weathered patina. ABOVE LEFT: To make this table lamp, Jim married a chippy green porch spindle to a rusty flagpole base of almost identical color. LEFT: Missing cozy firelight in the bedroom, Jim built a faux fireplace and then repurposed an old candy mold to caddy candles at its base. “When they’re all lit, it has the feel of a fireplace,” Jim says. He constructed the floor lamp from an old canoe oar. ABOVE: The minute Jim saw the old wire laundry basket, he imagined it topped with glass to serve as a side table. He filled the basket with old oilcans for pops of color and more vintage character. He built the mint-green table lamp from spindles he found duct-taped together at a flea market. “I just got rid of the duct tape!”
For furniture maker Jim Healy, the creative process is all about the eye. “I can walk through a flea market or tag sale and know immediately if I can use something,” says Jim, whose most unique home furnishings are made from architectural salvage and quirky vintage people’s junk,” he jokes. A Connecticut architect by day, Jim makes furniture for fun. “Architecture bills,” he says. But creating new furniture from repurposed pieces is his passion. Weekends find him sniffing around estate sales, hot on the trail of his particular brand of junk. Anything shiny, newish or sleek is out. His taste is for the rusty- crusty: century-old corbels and porch spindles with flaking paint, dinged oilcans and architectural relics, rusty wire laundry baskets, a lonesome canoe oar or a candy mold worn soft around the edges. Repurposed as lamps, tables, chests, or even faux fireplaces, these raw materials have old souls that live on in their newest incarnations. Even pieces like the armoires Jim builds with new wood are made to look old. “I paint and distress everything I build from scratch,” he says. Jim not only knows he can use an old piece the minute he sees it, but he also knows exactly how: He visualizes the finished design in the blink of an eye. “I just know,” he says. His soft spot is for oddities like the old plaid Sears thermos he instantly visualized as a lamp shade. He also knows when to leave well enough alone. One particularly arcane piece, a large cast-iron shingle cutter, was a keeper he chose not to modify. “It’s sculptural. Art,” he says. “I never took classes in this,” Jim admits. But it’s in his DNA. He grew up mesmerized, watching his grandfather at work in his shop. “He could build anything.” Happily, the family tradition lives on.
OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP: A corbel sporting crusty white paint was a natural for a lamp base. BOTTOM: Architect Jim Healy builds furniture from repurposed vintage pieces or from wood that he paints and distresses. He is an editor of Junkmarketstyle.com, where his projects appear. THIS PAGE, TOP LEFT: A gutted plaid Sears thermos is even cooler as a lamp shade. A galvanized funnel is the perfect base. ABOVE LEFT: A lamp fabricated from two antique corbels attached back to back exudes an Asian feel. Jim learned wiring at a college job working for an electrical company. LEFT AND ABOVE: In addition to repurposing junk, Jim makes furniture from scratch. The yellow jelly cupboard and the armoire both have an authentically old look, though entirely new.
LEFT: This striking floor lamp was fabricated from an antique red fire bucket and an old industrial funnel probably used for a tractor. The bucket’s conical shape made the sand used for putting out fires easier to throw and less likely to stick to the bucket. TOP: Jim transformed a college bullhorn into a pendant light for his dining room table. ABOVE: In the fashion of a crazy quilt, the blue chest consists of random old pieces of shutters. “I didn’t paint anything on it,” Jim says. OPPOSITE, TOPLEFT: The tall floor lamp created by sandwiching a discarded headboard in between two wide corbels has the curvy look of a cello or bass violin. OPPOSITE, TOPRIGHT: This green armoire, crafted in 1985, was the first one Jim built. Resting atop it is the old cast-iron shingle cutter he opted to leave untouched and present as art.